Works for Tabla
Shawn Mativetsky, tabla, with the William Paterson University Percussion Ensemble
The tabla music of Payton MacDonald fits into two distinct categories: concertos for tabla with percussion quartet (there are three of these on the disc) and solo tabla music (three of these as well). Shawn Mativetsky gives commanding performances of these well crafted, well performed, and well recorded compositions. There is not a bad moment on this disc.
Each of the concerti is a single movement of about 10 – 13 minutes in length. The opening ringing sonorities of the first track drew me in immediately. I was curious how the tabla would function and maintain its role as a soloist in front of a percussion quartet. There is no question who is in charge during the three concerti. The ensemble provides raga-esque backgrounds while the tabla solo thrums and titters and spins around the sonic space. The orchestration of all of the concerti is masterful and the solo tabla is always foreground material. Since the three concerti were written in sequential years (2002-4), they do share many traits. The instrumentation of the quartet seems to be the same/similar for each piece and the general process motivating the music is very similar in the first two concerti. Each concerto is effective on its own but the cycle of all three is also enjoyable.
The three solo tabla works, Alap, Jor, and Jhala, share traits just as the three concerti did. Each is drawn from Indian music, as one would expect, and each has its own organic pacing and trajectory. The performance is astounding and the subtleties of tone, gesture, and rhythm make it seem as if Shawn is playing seven drums with as many eleven-fingered hands. The recording is clean and brilliantly clear. I don’t think you could ask for a higher quality capture of the tabla sound.